Published: December 20, 2011
The extraordinary beauty, rarity and provenance of the pearl known as “La Peregrina” inspired a fierce bidding battle at Christie’s at the opening auction of the collection of Elizabeth Taylor December 13. Estimated at $2/3 million, the pearl reached a world auction record price for a pearl at $11,842,500 after four and a half minutes of bidding.
The pearl, a historic Sixteenth Century pear-shaped pearl suspended from a necklace custom-designed for Taylor by Cartier, has been widely heralded as one of Taylor’s most iconic jewels.
La Peregrina sold to a client on the phone after an inspired round of competitive bidding involving more than 20 bids. The lot opened at $2 million and quickly jumped to $4 million and on from there, with clients shouting out bids in increments of $1 million or more. Rahul Kadakia, head of jewelry for Christie’s America, took the winning bid.
The price with premium for La Peregrina surpasses the previous world auction record for a pearl jewel, set in 2007 at Christie’s New York with the sale of the Baroda Pearls for $7,096,000.
La Peregrina is a pearl of 203 grains in size quivalent to 50 carats ⁴hat was discovered in the 1500s in the Gulf of Panama. King Philip II of Spain was among the first recorded owners of the pear-shaped pearl, which later passed on to the Spanish Queens Margaret and Elisabeth, who proudly wore the pearl in Seventeenth Century portraits painted by Velázquez.
Richard Burton famously purchased the pearl for Taylor at auction in 1969 for $37,000, after successfully outbidding a member of the Spanish royal family. Inspired by a Sixteenth Century portrait of Mary Queen of Scots, Taylor later commissioned Cartier to design an exquisite new mount of matched natural pearls and rubies to offset what she called “the most perfect pearl in the world.”
A full auction review of the Elizabeth Taylor collection series of sales will appear in an upcoming issue.
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